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Drawing From the Past
Maya Antiquity Through the Eyes of Frederick Catherwood

Plate 8, General View of Las Monjas at Uxmal

Plate 8, General View of Las Monjas at Uxmal

Plate 8, General View of Las Monjas at Uxmal
(on stone, by J. C. Bourne)

This image depicts the ruins of Uxmal, an ancient site in the Puuc hills of the Yucatán peninsula, which was a thriving city and religious center for the Maya between ca. 800-1000 CE. Unlike many of Catherwood’s other prints, the huge open sky and the land fading away behind the ruins give a sense of the vast size of the city.

Uxmal was unusual because the plan of its buildings did not literally follow the natural topography. Each structure was set very specifically in alignment with the four cardinal compass points. The Pyramid of the Magician, seen in the right of the print, is also unusual in that it is elliptical, rather than square or rectangular, as is typical of Maya pyramids. At the center, the Nunnery Quadrangle, so called because the cell-like rooms inside reminded the Spanish explorers of convents, is set apart by the fact that its four buildings are placed on different levels; the north building is the highest, followed by the east and west, with the southern structure the lowest in elevation.

In the foreground, local people are shown working in front of the House of the Governor, presumably clearing the site for Stephens’ and Catherwood’s exploration. [Spanish version].

CHARLOTTE BALLANTINE

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